The Book Thief

by: Markus Zusak

Part Eight

Although Liesel still refuses to kiss Rudy, their relationship nonetheless reaches a new level of intimacy in this section. Rudy struggles to deal with the departure of his father and feels helpless because there’s nothing he can do to change the situation. Liesel recognizes how he’s feeling, and she shows how much she cares for her friend by staying at his side. Even as they walk to the outskirts of town, Liesel doesn’t turn back until she knows Rudy will come with her. At Christmas, Liesel again shows how much she cares for Rudy by her gift. She plans one of his favorite activities: stealing, which always gives him a feeling of empowerment. But this time she has has him steal a suit from his father’s tailor shop. This theft isn’t an act of disrespect toward his father’s shop. Instead, it acts as a way for Rudy to connect with his father through one of his suits. In essence Liesel found a way to give him a gift from his absent father. In the scene they engage in plenty of the playful mocking that characterizes their conversations, but by the end that mockery has faded away. It’s a sincere moment they share, and though she doesn’t actually kiss Rudy, it’s clear Liesel wants to from her thoughts. The moment is the closest they’ve been thus far in the novel.

The story Liesel receives from Max is essentially a parable about the power of words and it shows how they’ve been a refuge for Liesel and Max. It begins with Hitler realizing that through words he can take over the world, and that he chose words, as opposed to weapons or money or political power, suggests words are the most powerful force there is. The words take on the form of seeds in the story, and these seeds grow into what are basically word trees that fill people with ideas and symbols—in other words, Nazi ideology. What’s notable is that there’s a class of people who are basically outside this system, the word shakers, who recognize the power of words. Liesel, according to Max, is one of these, and a tear that she sheds creates its own word tree. Liesel uses this tree for shelter, and in that image Max is saying that the understanding and love Liesel bears for words, born from her suffering (the tear), has provided her a refuge from the Nazi trees all around. Max is able to climb the tree in the story, indicating that he was also able to find some refuge from Nazism in Liesel’s words.